Today, access to Ivvavik National Park is usually via float plane to Lake Margaret or possibly by boat thru the Artic Ocean during the summer. The Firth River is navigable and runs north from Lake Margaret to the Nanaluk Spit on the Beaufort Sea. During the ‘season’, or the summer months, the temperature averages 14° C with two months of perpetual sunlight. The winter temperature drops to an average of -29° C with one month of no sunrises. There is little enough snow or rain in the area for it to qualify as a desert, though the northern coast is well known for foggy days and ice flows that blow in during the summer season. Obviously, this is not a National Park for a family weekend outing, or for someone looking for a resort location.
People who want to see exotic animals in an almost untouched wilderness will make the trip to Ivvavik National Park see the Porcupine Caribou that give the area its name. These animals spend much of their time in the forests south of the park, but travel north to the tundra for calving during the spring and summer. Muskoxen, however, spend most of their time on the northern plains, making brief forays into the Spruce and Balsam Poplar forests in the southern mountain valleys. The coastal plain of the park is included in the northern most portion of the range for both Moose and Dalls Sheep. While Grizzly Bears can be found through out the park, Polar bears can some times be found near the northern shore on either side of the beach. Smaller carnivores like the Artic Fox, Wolves, and wolverines can be seen hunting in the Ivvavik National Park. Their prey includes Marten and Porcupine in the woods in the southern portion of the park and Artic Ground Squirrels, Voles and Lemmings to the north.
Ivvavik National Park is an important breeding ground for a wide variety of birds. Most of the birds that spend time in the park are migrants, coming north for the short breeding season. Some like the Artic Tern and the Golden Plover make the annual trip from the far ends of the Southern Hemisphere. Others, like the Northern Wheatear cross the Bearing Sea to come to these breeding grounds. For birds like the Snow Geese, Ivvavik is a stopping ground between their breeding grounds to the north on artic islands and their wintering grounds to the south. There are even some birds, the Snowy Owl and the Hoary Redpoll, that manage to live in Ivvavik year round.
Very few people actually visit Ivvavik National Park; it is one of the least visited of all of Canada’s National Parks. A large percentage of those people that do make the flight into Margaret Lake are looking to make the 130 km trip north down the Firth River to the Beaufort Sea. The initial portion of the trip is fairly sedate with little elevation change. It does give the visitor a chance to view the surrounding countryside. Fortunately, as the river becomes more challenging the scenery becomes less of a distraction as the river descends through a 45 km stretch of canyon. These rapids are made even more exciting by the fact that there is little chance of rescue if anything should go wrong. This stretch of the river is suitable only for the experienced white water aficionado with a knowledgeable guide.
If you have the time, the money, the equipment, and a good guide, Ivvavik National Park will provide a memorable site for an extended vacation.